GOP governors rush to bar Syrian refugees following Paris attacks

Republican governors slam the door on Syrian refugees citing fears of terrorism

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published November 16, 2015 2:58PM (EST)

  (Jeff Malet,
(Jeff Malet,

The Republican governors of Alabama and Michigan have already announced intentions to ban all future Syrian refugees from resettling in their states after last Friday's deadly terrorist attack in Paris.

One of the suicide bombers in Paris was a recent Syrian migrant, according to Greek officials. Several others were French nationals.

Under pressure from at least one GOP state lawmaker who called on Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to “reverse his call to relocate Syrian refugees in the state," the governor did just that.

On Sunday, the Michigan governor released a statement announcing his state's abandonment of refugee resettlement efforts for Syrians. Michigan is “proud of our rich history of immigration” but the “first priority is protecting the safety of our residents,” Snyder said.

As the Detroit Free Press notes, this is a backtrack for Snyder, who in September argued that the welcoming of Syrian refugees is "part of being a good Michigander." So far, the state has accepted at least 200 refugees from Syria.

Following suit, the Republican governor of Alabama also announced plans to bar all refugees from Syria. “After full consideration of this weekend’s attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way,” Governor Robert Bentley said in a statement this weekend. Alabama has not accepted one Syrian refugee during the crisis.

The Republican governors rushing to scapegoat all Syrian refugees for Friday's deadly attacks appear to be following the lead of their party's presidential aspirants as several hopefuls have redoubled their critiques against refugee resettlement efforts in light of the Paris attacks.

Ben Carson called the efforts "foolish" and a "suspension of intellect" during an interview on Fox News Sunday. "Because why wouldn’t [ISIS] infiltrate them with people who are ideologically opposed to us? It would be foolish for them not to do that."

“Bringing people into this country from that area of the world, I think, is a huge mistake," Carson argued.

Louisiana governor and Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal wrote a letter to President Obama on Saturday expressing his fears of Syrian refugees. “Louisiana has been kept in the dark about those seeking refuge in the state," Jindal wrote. "It is irresponsible and severely disconcerting to place individuals, who may have ties to ISIS, in a state without the state's knowledge or involvement."

"It's not that we don't want to; it's that we can't because there's no way to background check someone that's coming from Syria," Florida Senator Marco Rubio told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush offered to accept only Christian Syrian refugees.

"There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror," the Texas senator insisted. "We need to be working to provide a safe haven for those Christians who are being persecuted and facing genocide, and at the same time we shouldn't be letting terrorists into America."

"We should focus our efforts as it relates to refugees on the Christians that are being slaughtered," Jeb told CNN's Jake Tapper.

Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, only about 1,500 refugees from Syria have been accepted in the U.S. and the Obama administration has pledged to support 10,000 more over two years.

Obama: The World Needs To Care For Refugees, Not Shun Them

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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